A box model of the Arctic natural variability
We consider a box model of the Arctic system to examine its natural variability pertaining to the decadal Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the multidecadal Low-Frequency Oscillation (LFO). We distinguish the hierarchical order of the winter over the summer open-areas with only the former perturbing the sea-level pressure to effect coupled balances. From such balances, we discern two feedback loops on the winter open-area: a positive ice-flux feedback that elevates its overall variance and a negative buoyancy feedback that suppresses its low-frequency variance to render a decadal AO peak when subjected to white atmospheric noise. This negative buoyancy feedback may also reproduce observed phasing among LFO signals forced by the AMV (Atlantic Multidecadal Variability), thus resolving some outstanding questions. For the summer open-area, its variance is induced mainly by the winter forcings and insensitive to the base state. Its decadal signal merely reflects the preconditioning winter open-area, but its LFO variance is induced additionally and in comparable measure by the winter SAT (surface air temperature) through the latter’s effect on the melt duration and the first-year ice thickness. As such, the summer open-area signal is dominantly multidecadal, which moreover is several times its winter counterpart, consistent with the observed disparity. Although the model is extremely crude, its explicit solution allows quantitative comparison with observations and the generally positive outcome suggests that the model has isolated the essential physics of the Arctic natural variability of our concern.